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Shades of neurotic behavior emerge early in ‘Ripley’

In a black-and-white image, a man stands inside a train looking out the window in "Ripley."
Andrew Scott adds shades of paranoia in the black-and-white “Ripley.”
(Netflix)
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The monochromatic imagery in writer-director Steven Zaillian’s “Ripley” was curated by cinematographer Robert Elswit, drawing inspiration from 1960s Italian filmmakers Roberto Rossellini, Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni as well as Italian painter Caravaggio. The desaturated aesthetic subliminally deepens the unsettling persona of the con artist portrayed by Andrew Scott. “He is so neurotic,” says Elswit, who shot all eight episodes of the series, of the Tom Ripley character. “It seemed that lighting from extreme contrast was going to be the center of it for me. All the practical locations and beautiful sets production designer David Gropman built lend themselves to that.” Texture and frame add to the character’s phobia, especially during the first episode, “A Hard Man to Find,” when Ripley boards a New York train. As it leaves the station, he blankly stares into the camera lens as if someone is watching before the camera pulls back and onto the train car on the opposite side. The perspective is a peek into Ripley’s mind. “It’s a wonderful feeling when Tom is totally paranoid and he thinks someone is following and staring at him. It felt like a wonderful embrace of that and a real creative idea on how to make that work,” Elswit says.

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